Estaba vs Estuve when using in the first person | SpanishDict Answers
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I have heard that por ejemplo Yo estaba mirando=I was watching, but a friend told me estuve is used more for where you are in places Yo estuve en la cocina?, I read the opposite of what I was told, could somebody help me with this, I know estaba is also used in the 3rd person, but I am more interested in the first person term. Thanks so much!

  • Posted Aug 20, 2010
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Hi, Msthoro. It's not so much a matter of first person vs. third person as it is a matter of the preterite vs. the imperfect. They are both forms of the verb estar, but estuve is the preterite first person and estaba is the imperfect first person. When it's appropriate to use the preterite, use estuve. When it's appropriate to use the imperfect, use estaba. Here's a lesson on when to use which tense. Paralee also does several lessons on those two past tenses, starting in Learn Spanish 2.

Here's an example of when to use estar in the preterite, and one of when to use it in the imperfect:

Estaba en la cocina cuando mi hermano me llamó por teléfono. (You were in the middle of doing something when something else happened. The first one's imperfect.)

Estuve allí un año. (It began. It ended. Preterite.)

  • Good explanation, but you have a spare cuando. - KevinB Aug 20, 2010 flag
  • Oh, yes. Typo. Thanks, Kevin. - MacFadden Aug 20, 2010 flag
  • Furthermore the preterite/imperfect distinction is not restricted to "estar". It applies to any verb. - samdie Aug 21, 2010 flag
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